Tender Napalm

A few weeks ago I talked to Erica Murray about Sugarglass Theatre’s production of Philip Ridley’s Tender Napalm. The play sounded odd and interesting and I was delighted to finally see it when it opened in Project Arts Centre.

Sugarglass Theatre's Tender Napalm
Sugarglass Theatre’s Tender Napalm
Tender Napalm is set on a desert island where the two characters, Man and Woman are stranded. The wooden set manages to capture the barren landscape and the wonderful simplicity of life on a desert island. It is also beautiful to look at. The wooden poles dotted around the set could be a forest or when they are lit from within, they could be tall buildings. The flexibility of the set means the actors have a free rein to interpret the wonderful, intricate script.

It’s a very strong script. The characters create the world they’re in with their words. When Woman describes the scene she sees while writing it in her notebook she talks about the magnificent views, the colour of the sea, the softness of the sand. Man takes up the narrative and now that he is in control of what happens to them, a tsunami comes crashing down on the island. The stories they tell each other are sexy, tender or violent. And sometimes a combination of all three.

It is the relationship between the two characters that is at the crux of the play. The way the control of the story passes back and forth between them gives us more of an insight into this relationship than the words themselves. The chemistry between Aaron Heffernan and Erika Murphy adds a truthfulness to the performance. While they are telling fantastical stories of giant serpents and monkeys who feed you mangos, the way the two characters relate to each other feels very true.

There is a wonderful script at the heart of the show. It is funny and violent and fascinating. It also contains some wonderful twists and turns. Each individual set piece is intriguing and well-told but it is when they start to click together that the magnificence of the script begins to show. Each story is a small building block that makes up the couples relationship. The script is well-served well by two talented actors. Their strong performances are energetic and physically impressive.

It is a very impressive production and I’m very interested to see what Sugarglass do next.

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